Book banning week is a celebration of rights

By April Dahlquist

Open Books. Open Minds.

Between Sept. 27 and Oct. 4, librarians, booksellers, authors and readers alike are celebrating banned book week.

Founded in 1982 by the American Library Association, the last week in September is a time to celebrate the freedom of access to information, which includes the freedom to read.

“We believe that the way a democracy functions is on the freedom of information, which is an expression of all views, including unpopular views that need to be available,” said the University’s Head of Library and Information Science Library, Sue Searing.

Across the country, libraries are displaying banned books, and cities are holding events. On Sept. 27, Chicago had a banned books read-out on Michigan Avenue where popular banned or challenged books were read aloud.

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    “It’s something we take for granted in the U.S. and Western democracies,” Searing said. “It’s really a precious right we have, the freedom to read.”

    Universities don’t deal with book bans as much as public libraries and elementary schools, Searing said. Most of the time, a book will be challenged because a parent thinks the material is inappropriate for children. In a school, a controversial book will be challenged if it is a required part of the curriculum.

    Head of the Undergraduate Library, Lisa Hinchliffe, said as a research university, having a collection that covers the spectrum on all issues, no matter how controversial, is important.

    “I hold very strongly that access to information and free inquiries are important values to me as a librarian,” Hinchliffe said. “These are very important issues to us as a profession and ethically, that we remain neutral and that we collect widely.”

    A book is banned by first being challenged and then undergoing a review.

    From a library standpoint, Searing said that one of three decisions will be made: the book will stay on the shelf, be completely removed or put into a different section.

    The reasons for a challenge, which is a formal written complaint filed within a library or school, vary. Some reasons include controversial topics, offensive language or a religious viewpoint.

    The American Library Association received 420 challenges last year according to their Web site. Among the top 10 most challenged books last year were “The Golden Compass” by Philip Pullman, “The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn” by Mark Twain and “The Perks of Being a Wallflower” by Stephen Chbosky.

    “I’ve read a lot of the books in the top 10,” Searing said.

    “If I were a parent I would let my child read them because they are great literature.”

    Champaign Library Director Marsha Grove has yet to deal with a book being challenged at her library. She has heard complaints about books, but no formal request has been made.

    “We, as public librarians, respect parental responsibilities and parental rights,” Grove said. “Like most communities across the nation we want to reflect the many different values and viewpoints our community has, so parents need to know what their child is reading and make that decision for their own child.”

    The librarians stress the importance of this week as drawing attention to the freedoms Americans have, such as their access to all types of materials.

    Grove recommends many of the banned books to varying age groups, and agrees many of the banned books are great literature.

    “It’s an issue that gets people very agitated, the idea of restriction access of information,” Searing said. “Freedom to the access of reading is dear to a lot of people’s hearts.”